New Tea Concept Launching on Valencia in 2014: Samovar Tea


The ultimate teacup, designed for Samovar Tea. Photo courtesy of Atelier Dion.

I had a chance to catch up with Jesse Jacobs, the founder behind the three popular Samovar Tea Lounges in San Francisco, which he started 13 years ago. He said that while coffee is experiencing rapid third-wave growth in San Francisco, tea hasn’t hit a third wave here, until now. Starting in January 2014, Jacobs will be opening the first ~SAMOVAR TEA~ at 411 Valencia, which will be a different experience from his lounges. Instead of serving a pot, you’ll be able to just get a cuppa here, for about $3-$5, and the experience is designed for the tea drinker on the go versus one who wants to linger over a pot. Check out the custom ceramic teacup they designed with Atelier Dion—they have been working on it for close to a year. It’s meant to highlight the experience of drinking tea, from how you hold it to how you can admire its color, and with a very wabi-sabi aesthetic. The texture totally makes me want to hold it—now. Jacobs also mentioned they will be brewing tea in a new way (to be revealed!).

The tea selection will be limited to six (Jacobs said there are usually too many choices out there, leading to stress and confusion—I agree and love this perspective!), but of course sourced from the small family farms that Samovar is known to procure from, so you will get the best green tea, and jasmine, and pu-erh. Tea is a daily ritual for many, and Jacobs wants to make it more accessible, but still very artisanal and authentic. For example, they will be making a chai tea with freshly ground masala, whole milk, real cane sugar, and cooking it in a traditional urn. (I can’t wait.) The food offering will be limited, but look for some of the very best scones from a local baker, which will (almost) be baked to order, plus some snacks.

The space is going to have a contemporary Japanese aesthetic, with limited seating. Anthony Fish of Arcanum (Roka Akor) is behind the design, and local artist Jesse Schlesinger (Bar Tartine) will be contributing to the install. Look for a minimalist style with natural materials, like local wood and stone, and water. There will be future locations in the city, but this will be the first. I will let you know when the opening is in sight. 411 Valencia St. at 15th St.